Consistency of retrospective reporting about exposure to traumatic events


  • Portions of this paper have been presented at the Second World Conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in 1996 and at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in 1998.


Lifetime exposure to traumatic events was assessed by means of a multimethod protocol applied to 76 male military veterans. Consistency of retrospective reporting was determined for physical and sexual assault and abuse, accidents, disasters, combat and warzone experiences, serious illness or injury, and hazardous duty. Findings demonstrate that respondents are generally consistent in reporting traumatic events, although the majority report more events upon reevaluation. Reporting about traumatic events shows some variation as a function of the life epoch in which events occurred, whether they were directly or indirectly experienced, and the type of trauma involved. Discussion addresses memory-related processes triggered by trauma evaluation or tied to characteristics of events themselves as potential sources of inconsistency.